By Shiva Peri
In my current endeavors as a junior meticulously approaching the college process, I have been thinking about the definition of intelligence quite frequently. Throughout this work, I intend to answer the following three questions: 1) What exactly is intelligence? 2) How do we measure intelligence? 3) How does society value intelligence?
1) A quick Google search will yield an immediate, yet unsatisfying answer: 1. the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills; 2. the collection of information of military or political value. One reason this answer is so lacking is that it is too general. Intelligence means much more than that.
An idea that modern society holds dear is that education is the way to become intelligent. Consider Bloom’s taxonomy, a classification system for the stages of learning. Memory, understanding, and application (in other words, the Google definition) only cover the bottom three tiers. The abilities to analyze, evaluate, and create we find only at the top. But the question remains unanswered. Where does intelligence fit into said spectrum?
Perhaps intelligence is not a result of education but a consequence of experience or common sense. If we regard intelligence in this sense, then we can place the concepts of intuition and drawing connections under the umbrella of intelligence because those skills develop with experience.
However, these definitions have a bias towards the cerebrum and exclude the cerebellum. Physical abilities such as hand-eye-coordination are also forms of intelligence. However, even these ideas are biased towards humans. Many other primates possess some form of intelligence or ability to learn. Thus, we narrow our question: what exactly defines human intelligence?
After a few months of contemplation, I believe that what makes human intelligence so special is our insatiable curiosity and our drive to find the answers to our questions. The diversity in how each human thinks, reasons, and feels all define his or her intelligence. Intelligence is not only defined by the traditional intellectual idea but also entails dexterity, emotional, and artistic intelligence.
2) These various definitions, though, do not all match how the majority of important institutions measure intelligence: grades, IQs, standardized test scores.
The first of said means is grades. While grades are an adequate measure of intelligence, they do not reflect everything. Often, good grades are merely a result of participation, completion, and memorization.
Another idea that may measure intelligence is IQ (Intelligence Quotient). IQ essentially determines how good one is at grasping a concept. Again, the test has its flaws. Quantifying intelligence with a number makes intelligence seem entirely one-dimensional, which the answer to the first question clearly disagrees with.
Standardized tests are another prospective measure of intelligence, typically assessing general literacy and basic mathematical skills. While these tests may be helpful for colleges and job employers to quickly evaluate a candidate, they cannot represent the complexities of how intelligent one is and how he or she thinks.
3) The final question has the most applicability to our lives. Living in the information age, we can access knowledge relatively universally. In addition, society seems to rely entirely on the education systems to produce apt employees. The ambiguous notion of what makes a candidate “apt” is what inspired my thoughts in the first place. The notion that employers expect students to have perfect GPAs and SAT scores and to participate in several extra-curriculars may disillusion many young people. In trying to be the ‘perfect applicant’ or ‘perfect candidate,’ people constantly fear failure, never take risks, and most importantly, lose the curiosity that drives their intelligence.
If intelligence is what we defined earlier, then we must remember to cultivate all forms of our intelligence or risk becoming one-dimensional.